November 2016

November 15, 2016
Fairbanks, Alaska
National Park Service Fairbanks Administrative Center

November 15, 2016
Fairbanks, Alaska
National Park Service Fairbanks Administrative Center

SRC Members
Louie Commack (Ambler)
Taqulik Hepa (Barrow)
Jack Reakoff (Wiseman) –by phone
Pollock Simon Sr. (Allakaket)
Hugh Bifelt (Hughes) – by phone
Members of the Public
Raymond Woods (Shungnak) – by phone
Charles Hugo (Anaktuvuk Pass) - by phone
Office of Subsistence Management
Eva Patton
Alaska Dept. Fish and Game Div. of Subsistence
Jim Simon
Seth Wilson
Greg Dudgeon – by phone
Jeff Rasic
Marcy Okada
Kyle Joly (on the phone)
Kumi Rattenbury – by phone
Ken Adkisson – BELA – by phone
Clarence Summers – AKRO – by phone
Joe Durrenberger
Eric Wald – ARCN
Mat Sorum
Matt Cameron
Scott Sample

Quorum was established.
SRC Chair Welcome and Introduction (Louie Commack)
Reviewed and approved meeting agenda.
Reviewed and approved April 26, 2016 meeting transcripts.

Pollock Simon Sr. and Louie Commack, both appointed by their respective RACs are in good standing on their term appointments. For the North Slope RAC, Sam Kunaknana from Nuiqsut has not been able to attend any of our meetings. He is serving only until the North Slope RAC appoints someone from Anaktuvuk Pass. Jack Reakoff’s Secretary of Interior appointment has expired, but he would like to continue to serve on the Commission and is currently in the que for reappointment. Raymond Woods and Jerry Sikvayugak both have applications in process in the Secretary of Interior’s office. Both Tim Fickus and Taqulik Hepa have been reappointed by the Governor of Alaska. An email letter from Dave Mills (former YUGA superintendent) was shared regarding Levi Cleveland’s years of service on the SRC. Also announced that Pollock Simon has served on the Commission for 30 years (since 1986) and will be given a signed plaque from NPS and the SRC.

Louie Commack: Many people in the Kotzebue region are concerned about the Western Arctic Caribou Herd decline. The Lower and Upper Kobuk Advisory Committees (ACs) will be meeting in December and will discuss the continuing decline of the caribou population, increasing wolf populations, and the abundance of beavers.
Taqulik Hepa: The North Slope Borough Fish and Game Management Committee met and discussed the Board of Game proposal requesting a separate amount necessary for subsistence (ANS) for the Teshekpuk and Western Arctic Caribou herds. The Committee decided not to take action on this proposal due to not understanding the pros and cons of it. Weather conditions – very little snow across the North Slope. From spring time through summer, it seems as if everything was two to three weeks earlier for migration whether it was migratory birds, caribou, whales, you name it. We had an invasion of weasels throughout the North Slope. There were very little numbers of lemmings. Anaktuvuk Pass had a good harvest from the fall caribou migration.
Jack Reakoff: The Western Interior RAC (WIRAC) met in McGrath. The WIRAC supported the BOG proposal to divide the amount necessary for subsistence for the Western Arctic and Teshekpuk caribou herds. The RAC voted to oppose Wildlife Special Action 16-03 – to rescind the caribou sport hunting closure on federal lands in Unit 23. Weather – Like the rest of the Interior, this area has about 3.5 inches of snow. The sheep are going through rut right now and they have awesome conditions for traveling and breeding. It is looking like a really good winter again for moose. The number of snowshoe hares has increased dramatically in the last few years and we are seeing a lot of lynx. The wolves are also hunting hares. The snowshoe hare population will probably peak in 2017/2018 or 2018/2019. This will take the pressure off of sheep predation by wolves.
Pollock Simon Sr.: The moose population has been down these last few years. We are starting to see more moose tracks, but we haven’t seen any caribou come through Allakaket for over 10 years. In years past, caribou use to pass through in the wintertime. If your freezer was running low on moose, you could fill it up with caribou meat. The king salmon population crashed and the State has restricted us on harvesting king salmon. King salmon used to be the major fish resource for the villages along the Yukon River. Sometimes life on the Upper Koyukuk River is kind of tough, but we always manage.
Raymond Woods: All of the reports I’ve just heard sound similar to my region. The sheep numbers are low. I would like to know how they do their sheep surveys in areas like the Upper Noatak – Midas Creek and Douglas Creek. On the sheep matter, my Dad passed away in 2003 and he had 5 sons, all over the age of 45. He showed us where to go sheep hunting in the headwaters of the Noatak River.

Dall’s Sheep SurveysKumi Rattenbury
We did our last Gates of the Arctic park-wide survey in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, both of those years, we did park-wide surveys; we saw a decline, 25% for adult sheep. It went from about 750 adult sheep down to 570 or so. In July 2016, we did surveys around Anaktuvuk Pass and the Itkillik preserve area and we saw further decline in the Anaktuvuk area and continued low numbers of adults in the Itkillik area. We will be starting up some diet and pregnancy rate monitoring studies in these areas of Gates. These studies will take place during the late winter/early spring. We would like to learn more about diet and disease issues in these sheep populations. None of the sheep hunts are closed in Gates of the Arctic. Residents of Ambler, Shungnak, and Kobuk can still hunt sheep in Gates of the Arctic and it is not open to residents from anywhere else. The reason why that area is still open and the rest of Unit 23 is closed, is because we saw pretty stable numbers between 2009 and 2015 of approximately 950 to a 1,000 adult sheep and that is from the Alatna River west and it includes the upper Noatak River. Also harvest is expected to be incredibly low from those communities - maybe 5 a year. As far as the northeastern portion of Gates of the Arctic, the hunts haven’t been closed in that area for federal users and sport hunting is still open in the preserve. We are planning on surveying that northeastern corner of the park in Anaktuvuk and Itkillik areas every year - to get an idea of the number of lambs that are surviving and making it into adulthood.

Caribou UpdateKyle Joly
In 2015, we conducted a moose survey in the Alatna, John, and North Fork Koyukuk Rivers. A survey hadn’t been done since 2004. Our survey estimates show that there are about the same amount of moose and there hasn’t been much change in those areas. As you know, we’ve been working on a grizzly bear project and we had our last round of captures this year. We radio-collared 50 bears in and around the park. That project is winding down and the collars will drop off next summer (2017) after the bears come out of their dens. We are looking at movements, denning behavior, the use of salmon streams, diet, and diseases. This project will end with collar collecting in fall 2017.

The Western Arctic Caribou Herd declined from 490,000 back in 2003 to about 200,000 with the estimates from last summer. ADFG will be doing another census this summer so hopefully we will get more of an indication that the herd is rebounding.

ArchaeologyJeff Rasic
Archeological field research inventories are done and the goal is to learn about a resource to tell that long term story about subsistence and Alaska Native history and culture. We want to protect those important values and resources. We also have a strong role in public education and outreach, especially rural education. Two years ago we started hosting an annual summer science and culture camp out of Nome. We recruited students from the Northwest region and the Bering Straits region. We look at archeological sites, discuss fisheries management in the region, and practice oral history techniques with elders. There’s a vocational emphasis on career paths.
Another emerging issue is the effort to document traditional place names in the parks, with the hopes that the official park maps will have traditional place names within them. We know there are sensitivity issues with showing and sharing place names, but we think it has a lot of symbolic value and can be done thoughtfully.

New Business
DOI Secretarial Order – Tribal Role in Land Mgmt.
Secretarial Order issued by Sally Jewel: The purpose of this Secretarial Order was to encourage cooperative management agreements and other collaborative partnerships between the Department of Interior, Resource Managers, and Tribes, that will further shared interest in the management of federal lands and resources. It was also created to establish a process and an institutional support to ensure land and resource managers evaluate and develop opportunities to further establish partnerships that benefit tribes and federal agencies. On the second page it lists all the federal agencies that are under the Department of Interior. The National Park Service is under the Department of Interior and is mandated by the National Park Service Organic Act. She also mentions Government to Government relationships with the tribes. This order is effective immediately and will remain in effect until it is either amended, superseded, or revoked.

Old Business
Ambler Mining District Road Project Update – Jeff Rasic
This summer we received a permit application from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA). We have reviewed it and deemed it complete and are proceeding with the review process. Now it is in the realm of the federal agencies. For the National Park Service, the 12 to 20 miles of that 200 mile route is in our purview. We have an obligation to select a route; we do not have the option of saying "no". It is in the enabling legislation which created Gates of the Arctic. We can select a route that has the least amount of impact and it is up to the Park Service to determine terms and conditions in order to minimize impacts. That is the phase we are entering now, we are going to take all of the information the State of Alaska submitted in their application. We will add our own studies and our own analysis of various topics in order to make the decision of what is the best route and what are the rules. A major part of the process is hearing public input and conducting formal government to government consultations with tribal entities. We will document that in what is called the Environmental and Economic Analysis.

Joe Durrenberger (Overall NPS Ambler Road Project Manager): The schedule is largely driven by what is happening with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the EIS, our process is separate and independent of the EIS. The NEPA process looks at it at a slightly different picture. Whether or not the project actually happens, we do not have a no action alternative. We have our alternatives identified. We are interested in talking with everybody at every opportunity. Nova Copper, the mining company is now called Trilogy Metals (TM) and their initial mining development plan is for 12 years.

Anaktuvuk Pass Native Allotment Access Update – Marcy Okada/Jobe Chakuchin
A permit was issued in September. The general conditions are for two round trips of up to 4 argos and the permit expires October 31, 2017. The permit does not allow for hunting with argo. Should the permittees see caribou while traveling down to their allotment, they may pursue the caribou by foot. The permittee is also allowed to hunt on their allotment with argo.

Board of Game Proposals

Proposal 1: Evaluate a separate amount reasonably necessary for the subsistence of the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd – The GAAR SRC voted to take no action at this time.

Proposal 2: Modify the hunt structure of the Western Arctic and Teshekpuk Caribou Herds – The GAAR SRC unanimously opposed this proposal. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) should not propose this regulation when they do not have the capacity to educate local hunters on how this regulation will affect them. This regulation has the potential to allow ADF&G to cite local hunters who may be unaware of the regulation. Harvest reporting has been shown to be ineffective in the past.

Proposal 3: Remove the exception to harvest tickets and reports for caribou – The GAAR SRC unanimously opposed this proposal. This proposal would create an undue burden on local hunters, also known as super hunters who harvest large numbers of caribou for the elders, widows, and needy in their communities. A super hunter would have to apply for multiple harvest tickets in order to document the number of caribou he or she has harvested. Harvest reporting should come from the community at large, perhaps from the tribal councils who could provide community harvest numbers.

Proposal 4: Institute no-fly zones for caribou hunting in Units 21D, 22, 23, 24, and 26A – The GAAR SRC unanimously opposed this proposal. This proposal is not feasible due to possible weather delays that could affect flying time.

Proposal 11: Remove the exception to harvest tickets and reports for sheep - The GAAR SRC unanimously opposed this proposal. The National Park Service is monitoring the Dall’s sheep harvest by working with the community of Anaktuvuk Pass in order to assess harvest on Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Nunamiut Corporation lands that fall under State regulations.

Proposal 113: Modify the resident bag limit for Dall sheep in Units 24B, 25A, 26B, and 26C - The GAAR SRC unanimously opposed this proposal. The federal subsistence regulation for units 24A and 24B has recently changed from any 3 sheep to 3 sheep, no more than one of which may be a ewe. The communities of Wiseman and Anaktuvuk Pass are currently under an informal self-imposed restriction on hunting ewes. Low harvest rates and local traditional practices are addressing the decline of the sheep populations.

Subsistence Collections Proposed Rule
On January 13, 2016 the National Park Service published a draft regulation package in the Federal Register. The subsistence collections revisions of the draft rule were published in response to requests from the subsistence resource commissions and regional advisory councils and would allow the collection and use of non-edible wildlife parts including shed or discarded horns, antlers, claws, teeth, feathers, and plant materials for making handicrafts that could be used, bartered or sold. Draft rule also proposed clarifying that collecting or possessing living wildlife is generally prohibited and limiting the types of bait that may be used to take bears for subsistence uses. Approximately 30 comments were received in the draft rule during the 90-day public comment period that closed on April 12, 2016 and working on drafting the final rule is underway. It is often the case of regulatory proposals that changes are made in the final rule based on comments received. It is unlikely the final rule will be published before the end of 2016, but we anticipate that it will be published and the regulations will be in effect sometime next spring. Gates of the Arctic SRC had a teleconference regarding this proposed rule and was able to submit a letter in time for the comment period deadline. We shared this letter at our last SRC meeting in April.

National Park Service Subsistence draft brochure
The National Park Service for the Alaska region is creating a new subsistence brochure and it will be for parks in general. The thought was to make it an all-encompassing brochure. The target audience is the general public who lives outside of Alaska and doesn’t know anything about subsistence.

Subsistence Harvest Surveys – Presentation by Seth Wilson, ADF&G Division of Subsistence
Hughes Harvest Survey – In the winter of 2015, a National Park Service funded comprehensive harvest survey was conducted. Harvest survey information provides a larger picture of what people are harvesting in rural Alaska. It collects good data that informs policy makers about subsistence. Most Hughes households participated in this study – 26 out of 35 households. In the year 2014, the community of Hughes harvested an estimated 32,000 pounds of food. The 32,000 pounds of food was mainly made up of moose, caribou, whitefish, and salmon. Hughes harvests a lot of fish – humpback whitefish, cisco, and sheefish. 2014 was a bad blueberry year, so not much was harvested. This in turn affected the black bear population and not many black bears were harvested because they looked too skinny. Another major finding is that 12% of the households harvest 70% of the food.

Scott Sample is the Chief Ranger for BELA, CAKR, KOVA, NOAT, GAAR, and YUCH. The Ranger Division is trying to fill some vacant positions. There were three search and rescues this past summer/fall. One in the Ikiakpuk area, one in Ernie Pass, and one on the North Fork of the Koyukuk River. The sport-hunting guide Richard Guthrie has chosen not to take clients sheep hunting in Itkillik Preserve for the past three years because of the recent population declines.

SRC Member Concerns
Request for honorarium. Need for timely Secretary of Interior SRC appointments.

Wiseman in April 2017.


For a complete copy of the official SRC meeting minutes please contact Marcy O'Kada at 907-455-0639.

Last updated: June 19, 2017